Environmental collapse before Soviet’s fall

Exactly 25 years after the fall of the USSR, let’s take a look at its ‘consumeristic’ policies for exploiting natural resources at the cost of degrading environment and public health

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 26 December 2016
Credit: Edmund Gall / Flicker
Credit: Edmund Gall / Flicker Credit: Edmund Gall / Flicker

Leaving behind a legacy of environmental catastrophe

Twenty-five years ago, a superpower was wiped off from the world map. Soviet Union disappeared and 15 new countries appeared. These nations have trodden different paths since then, forming new identities, but the horrific history of distrust, irresponsible growth and sheer disregard for sustainable development have restricted their future endeavours to a considerable extent.

During seven decades of Soviet regime, there was a trade-off between economy and environment. Like many socialist states, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) believed in communal ownership of almost every property and treated nature as a free resource that the government has right to exploit. With very little regard for future, the USSR continued to run its economic engine, leaving behind a legacy of environmental catastrophe, including desertification and pollution.

While some still shudder at the memories of state repression and chronic food shortages, the fact that irreversible changes in nature had taken place during this regime cannot be overlooked. According to economist Marshall Goldman, who travelled extensively in the Soviet Union, “Government officials in the USSR generally have a greater willingness to sacrifice their environment than government officials in a society with private enterprise where there is a degree of public accountability. There is virtually a political as well as an economic imperative to devour idle resources in the USSR."

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